Lincoln, Nebraska – Two lesbians were attacked Thursday by a man wielding a crowbar for supposedly shaming his family. When the attack failed, he and his friend rammed the women’s car with a pickup truck, attempting to push the women’s vehicle into oncoming traffic. KLKN TV reports that Ahmed Tuma and his accomplice, Nathan Marks, both 20 years of age, took offense when Tuma’s sister announced she was a lesbian, and became engaged to her fiancée. Tuma allegedly believed his sister’s relationship with a woman shamed his family, enraging him to the point he enlisted Marks to accompany him on an ambush. Prior to the attack, Tuma had made death threats against his sister. Lincoln Police Department spokesperson Officer Katie Flood confirmed, “They were in fear for their lives, he had made some verbal threats to kill the sister.”
Gay Star News says that the lesbians had pulled their car near their home, and had just gotten out to enter the house at approximately 5 p.m. on Thursday when Tuma rushed them, brandishing a crowbar. The women escaped back to the safety of their car just as the brother swung the weapon. They frantically tried to start the car as Tuma hit the vehicle’s windows repeatedly, trying to smash them out. When the lesbians succeeded in starting their car, Tuma rushed back to Marks’s pickup, and the two men rammed their victims’ auto in an apparent attempt to push it into the traffic speeding by. The couple was able to get away from their assailants, and called police.
Police arrested Tuma for attempted 2nd degree assault, criminal mischief, two counts of terroristic threats and use of a weapon to commit a felony. All of the charges except use of a weapon carry a hate crime enhancement. Marks was arrested and charged with aiding and abetting a terroristic threat, and aiding and abetting the use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. Both men have been arraigned, and will stand trial for the hate crimes in a Lincoln court.
Oakland, California – An 18-year-old teen who identifies as “non-binary” or “gender-neutral” was set on fire Monday evening as he slept soundly in the rear of an AC Transit bus. Luke “Sasha” Fleischman, a popular student at Berkeley’s Maybeck High School, suffered second and third degree burns on his legs when a 16-year-old assailant set a skirt Fleischman was wearing alight. Passengers on board the bus aided Fleischman in extinguishing the stubborn flames. The attacker, Richard Thomas, who was arrested Tuesday on the campus of Oakland High School, now admits that his feelings of homophobia led him to try and burn the sleeping teen alive.
NBC Bay Area News reports that anger at the attacker and compassion for Fleischman emerged quickly as news of the attack spread throughout the East Bay area. Fleischman, whose mother told the Bay Area Newsgroup that her child felt comfortable wearing female-identified clothing such as a skirt, has long understood himself to be gender neutral. “My son considers himself agender,” Debbie Fleischman said. “He likes to wear a skirt. It’s his statement. That’s how he feels comfortable dressing.” The teenager’s cousin, 25-year-old Tara Young, a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley, said “I don’t care what he was wearing, You don’t light someone on fire.”
Rushed to the Burn Center at San Francisco’s St. Francis Memorial Hospital, Fleischman underwent surgery on his legs Wednesday. Donations have poured in to help defray the cost of his medical care, topping $20,000 in a matter of hours. Hospital officials confirmed that the teenager will need to undergo painful skin grafts and “several surgeries.”
Meanwhile, his attacker, 16-year-old Richard Thomas, who had been arrested and initially charged with assault with a deadly weapon and mayhem, is now being fully charged for each count as a bias-motivated hate crime after admitting his intense homophobic feelings motivated him to set his victim’s clothing on fire. KQED News reports that Alameda County law enforcement officials, who acknowledge the attack on Fleischman was motivated by anti-queer hatred, are charging Thomas as an adult. The Oakland Tribune interviewed lead Police Investigator in the case, Anwawm Jones, who confirmed, “During (the) suspect interview, the suspect stated he did it because he was homophobic.” Oakland District Attorney Nancy O’Malley told The Tribune that Thomas’s “violent and senseless criminal conduct resulted in severe and traumatic injuries to a young and entirely innocent victim,” and went on to say, “The intentional and callous nature of the crime is shocking and will not be tolerated in our community. Our thoughts remain with the victim and the victim’s family in wishing for a full recovery from the extensive burns suffered as a result of this crime.”
Felony aggravated assault carries a possible life sentence with a possibility of parole, the assault charge has a maximum penalty of eight years in prison, and each count of hate crime enhancement adds a year in prison, according to the Alameda District Attorney’s Office.
“Sasha” Fleischman represents an emerging group of youth who do not fit into the male/female binary, some of whom consider themselves gender-neutral, agender, or genderqueer. According to his parents, Sasha came out as agender two years ago, and became politically active in order to carve out a place in American consciousness for youth like himself. He gathered over 27,000 signatures on a petition with which he attempt to draw President Obama’s attention to the issue, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News.
The Advocate reports that the gay men were beaten, dragged by their hair, and threatened with a knife. Malone, who lost a tooth in the attack, said one of the assailants slashed at his stomach and his head with a knife, intending to stab him. “He swung it at my stomach and then swung it back up at my face,” Malone said. In a defensive move, Malone kicked off the stiletto heels he was wearing, and used them to back the attackers off.
In their interview with KATU, the three men vividly recalled the chaos and fear they felt as their assailants pressed their assault:
“I was on the ground and they reached over and punched him in the face.”
“All I saw was blood all over his mouth.”
“I was in shock. I felt my tooth go into my tongue and I spit it out onto the ground.”
“All I remember is hearing somebody yell there was a knife.”
“He swung it at my stomach and then swung it back up at my face.”
A passing cyclist aided the victims, and the gang of attackers ran from the scene, leaving the trio scarred, bruised, and shaken, but thankful they were not injured more seriously from the sudden, savage assault. Hundreds from the community have responded with messages of support and comfort to the victims, and have donated money to help with medical expenses. In one overwhelming expression of generosity, a local dentist replaced Malone’s broken tooth with a temporary replacement, and pledged to complete the permanent dental replacement later.
Hughes, Malone, and Miller reported the attack as an anti-gay hate crime, but they are not optimistic about anyone being apprehended and charged in the case. They understand that their costumes were provocative, and that some might not appreciate their taste, but they never imagined that irrational hatred could turn the evening so brutal. All three gay men are clear, however, that nothing they did provoked the attack, and they are determined to remain strong and proud in their gender presentations and identities. As Malone told EDGE Boston, they are not going to let this experience change who they are, “Not even for a second.”